Tag Archives: SAHM

Unsolicited Parenting Advice #1

I’m not a quiet girl.  If you’ve met me in person I will give you a minute to wipe that “no shit” look off of your face.

I have a new parenting technique and it doesn’t feel right to keep it to myself.

One of the hardest things about being home with the kids full-time is the noise.  It is constant.  It is relentless.  There is a never-ending hum of sound. I think that is how parents end up being yellers.  We just have to compete to get heard.

I really don’t want to be a yeller. But I have a two year old.

Solution:  Quiet Riot. Specifically “Cum on Feel the Noize.

Scenario:  I am cutting chicken.  Shit always hits the fan when I have raw chicken on my hands. I have said “Lucy please stop banging that lid on the oven door” several times at a reasonable volume level.   She has interpreted this to me “Start yelling along with the slamming.”

Here is where I employ my new technique.  Instead of screaming “For the love of all that is holy, STOP with the banging for one blessed second!  I can not pick you up so do not start crying like I have ruined your life, I have chicken on my hands, RAW CHICKEN.  Jeeezus, stop crying.  I didn’t do anything, I just asked you to stop with the banging, Go.  Bang.  Bang all the lids.  Do whatever you want.  Nobody listens to me!!!” n0t that I have ever had this sort of situation go down. I, personally, never, ever lose my cool.

Instead, at the moment that I feel the crazy start to make its way up my throat and tickle my yelling muscles I open my mouth and I shriek “CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE!” and I smile.  You have to smile while you do it or it is just like screaming at your kid. Remember, you are singing. You are FunTime Mom.  You are the mom that loves it when your kid bangs lids on the oven door.

“Girls, Rock the boys!  We’ll get wild, wild wild!! Wild, wild wild!!”  Take a minute. Catch your breath. If you’re doing it right your kid has stopped dead in their tracks.  They are staring at you like they have no idea what is going to happen next.

So, you think I’ve got an evil mind… that is the next line.  That isn’t a question.

That’s it.  This is my new Toddler Parenting Technique.  Go ahead and yell.  But yell a song, shake your hips and smile, smile, smile and you can pretend you are dancing, singing Fun Mom.  It works. It is the latest and greatest in my Fake It Til You Make It life plan.

Try it.  I suggest 80s hair metal, but I suppose any tune will do. Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is a hit in our house. Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” will work. But you have to start right in with “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” and you have to really put your hips into it.

Come back and tell me your favorite song to scream, I mean, sing at your kids.

This kid is nuts.

This kid is nuts.

Keeping Up Appearances

I used to mow the grass  in cut off Levi 501s and a bikini top.  It was an excuse to strut back and forth in the yard and work on my tan. As time wore on those Levis got shorter and shorter but I got older and sassier and cared less and less about what was appropriate.  I was mowing my damn grass, right?  And wolf whistles happened less and less frequently.  I’d take what I could get.

This summer I mowed the grass often just to have a few minutes to myself.  The cut off Levis have long since been retired.  These days I don’t put a tremendous amount of thought in to what I wear to mow the grass.  None of my neighbors (the same neighbors that wave at me daily as I stroll down the street with my dog or run by in the morning with the jogging stroller) are likely to cat call anyway so who might I even try to impress?

But my grass mowing attire was at least Go Out in Public Even If It Is Only To The Gas Station worthy.  I would be traipsing back and forth across my yard for thirty minutes.  This warrants more care than the Run Down To The End Of The Driveway With The Trash Can Before You Miss The Trash Truck outfit.

And then this happened.

Hot Mess

 

Look carefully.  This woman reflected in the side of her car is wearing a velour sweatsuit with the pants pegged so as to not drag along the ground and Crocs.  Let me repeat that.  I have PEGGED THE LEGS OF MY VELOUR SWEAT PANTS.  And I have chosen to wear socks and Crocs.  Now I think that some kind of a tool (any kind, really) can elevate a woman’s hotness.  But let’s face it.  A leaf blower is not much of a tool.

I think I have given up.  It has happened.

I remember (as long ago as yesterday when I would not have dreamed of doing this!) looking at women and thinking “what the hell is wrong with you?  You have a pulse, for fuck’s sake, brush your hair” and now look at me. What am I doing? Perhaps this has been a lesson in “Judge Not Less Ye Be Judged.”

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Granted, I have a terrible cold. My youngest looks like a refugee and is currently wearing a shirt belonging to my oldest and flowered pants.  Her baby is being toted around in a towel.   I haven’t really made much in the way of dinner in two days and I am running on caffeine and Dayquil. (Speaking of running, I knocked back two slugs of Dayquil this morning, before I left for my run and set a PR for a 5K distance.  Not an all time PR, but a since I have been injured PR.  Wheee!  Bronchodilators for the Win!!)

I am not at my best.  I’m not sleeping.  Showering is a successful day.  I am spent and cranky and not looking for a hot date.  But pegged velour sweatpants?

I can do better than that. I can.  And I will.  You have my word.

I’m a wreck.  But my yard looks nice.

So, how are you? Have you caught yourself doing anything mortifying lately?  

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I like to mow instead of rake. It’s like vacuuming your yard.

 

 

Dear Emily June, on your 8th Birthday

Dear Emily June,

I have been writing you letters on your birthday since you were very small.  But this year seems different. I usually write a letter that will help me to remember what it was like the year you were five or the year were two.  But this year, the year you were seven, I don’t think it will take any remembering.  Not because it was unforgettable or because I took a million pictures.  It is simpler than that.

I don’t think I will struggle to remember the year that you turned eight because I think you have become the person that you’ll be for good.  Things will change.  You will grow up and fall in love and drive a car and flunk a test and get a job and make mistakes.  Things will happen to you.  Layers will form on top of this person that you are right now.  But who you are – Emily June.  I know her.  She’s here to stay.

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You will be eight tomorrow.  And some day you will be nine and then ten.  But you will always be Emily June.  You will always have a little dimple in your cheek.  You will always have a little sister that adores you.  You will always make me laugh like no one else. You will always know just exactly what to say when I am blue.  You will probably always obsessively organize your shoes before you clean up anything else when you pick up your room.  You will always love crunchy peanut butter.

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All week you have asked me if I am sad that you are turning eight.  “Do you think I look a little bit old in these pants?” You shake that tiny heiny in front of your mirror and I watch you watch yourself.  “Nope, I think you look a lot bit crazy.”

I like to give you a little piece of motherly advice on your birthday.  It seems like the thing to do.  Through the years I have told you to dream big and love fiercely.  I have praised your strength and your kindness.  I have told you time and again that you are funny because good god almighty, kid, you are a riot.  This year I am at a loss.  Not because I think my advice would fall on deaf ears, quite the opposite. You want so desperately to please.  You’d move mountains if you thought it was expected of you.  This year I just want you to be you.

I want to tell you to just keep on keeping on, kiddo.  You are better at being Emily June than I could ever be.  I’m going to do my damnedest to keep my mouth shut through the next decade.  But if you are trying to make a decision and you need need to be reminded what Emily June would have done that summer right before she was eight – you just ask me, ok?  Because I will never forget.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.  I love you.

Keep it up, kid.

Love,

Mom

Mama said there’d be days like this….

You know that old saying about how mothers don’t get sick days. It’s the truth. They don’t get sick nights, either. When Lucy slipped out of bed to come and stare at me in the bathroom at 2 am I had an inkling of what my day would look like today.

I don’t talk bathroom as much as my friend Karen. But I am not afraid of it. Truth is, I guess, is that the bathroom doesn’t play a big part in my life. I am chronically full of shit, I suppose. I just don’t spend an awful lot of time in there. So, when I was camped out in there most of last night, save for the twenty times I put Lucy back to bed, I kind of figured maybe I was just getting it all out of my system.

Wrong. This morning was no picnic, either.

Eventually I braved leaving the house. I figured I’d run a few errands and catch some zzzz’s in the afternoon when Lucy took her nap. Wrong, again. Instead we had the dreaded ten minute car nap.

I tried to put her back down. I did. I snuggled. I cajoled. I begged. I was firm. I pretended to be asleep.

Lucy cycled through several responses. None of them were sleep. She screamed at me “Nooooo! No nap! No!” She tried to distract me, efforts were made to convince me there was some kind of a tooth brushing emergency “Teeeeeth!” Eventually she calmly repeated “Mama. Out. Thank you.”

We are now reading books on the couch. I give up. Lucy wins. As noted in the video below she is “happy, happy.”

Damn Kid

I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened before.

Some evenings bath time at our house is more like a drive-through car wash than a leisurely play time with tub toys.  Lucy is stripped down after dinner and I pop her in the tub.  I leave the warm water running and I don’t plug the drain. We get in and we get out.  It’s not a party. It is as utilitarian as a diaper change. Get clean and get moving. We have books to read and nighttime games to play.

Tonight Lucy Goose was standing in the tub all soaped up.  She was having a good time.  She grinned right through the hair washing.  With one hand under her armpit I reached over to the towel bar for a washcloth when I was suddenly soaked.

If you have ever lived with someone that likes to leave the faucet/shower lever on shower when they get out than you know what happened.  The sudden water in the face can be a rude awakening.  Wiping water from my eyes and with soaking wet hair I turned back towards the faucet and I saw her.  She still had her hand on the lever that switches the water from the faucet to the shower.  I quickly pushed it.  The water resumed coming from the faucet.

The bath that I had planned on being quick just got quicker. I’ll  just get the soap off and whooooosh.  Water in the face.  Again.  This time she was laughing.

So, help me.  This kid is so bad.  And I usually love it.  But man, I was annoyed. I finished washing the soap off of her.  But I did not brush her hair.  I showed her, huh?

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Watch & Learn

It was quiet.

I know better than to ignore the quiet.   Screaming.  Whining.  Yelling  Slamming.  Banging.  These are the sounds that say “Yep.  We’re all fine, Mom.” But quiet?

Quiet means you’d be smart to hightail into the room where your kids are playing and be prepared to freak out.

I was folding laundry in my bedroom.  Glamorous life, I know.  Lucy had been wandering back and forth between my bedroom and the living room making the “enh enh enh” sound that means “Pick me up and carry me around. There is nothing wrong with me but I am bored.” I had decided to tough it out.  I would just finish this last load, put it away and then I’d make up for not providing a challenging and age-appropriate activity for six minutes of the poor kid’s life.

But then it got quiet.

I made the foolish choice.  I folded like mad and decided to ride it out.  When I left my bedroom I had half a mind to just go straight to the kitchen for a Magic Eraser.  There was sure to be crayon on a wall.  I’d be grateful for crayon and not Sharpie.  Or maybe there would be a dumped over dog water bowl.

Much to my surprise my sweet girl was sitting quietly on the couch with the dog.  She pointed as soon as I saw her.

Goose & Fish

Her point was not at me.  It was at the television (which had been muted, so I didn’t realize it was even on.) She pointed.  And she didn’t move.  She sat like a stone and watched.

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You recognize the start of those happy trees, don’t you?  My sweet girl that doesn’t watch television because she is shy of 16 months old and I am afraid I will turn her brain in to oatmeal or, even worse, create a kid that is incapable of amusing herself without a screen, was watching TV.

But not just any TV.  She was watching Bob Ross.

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And I hope I didn’t ruin her because I sat down right next to her and said “Check this out. First he covers the whole canvas with Liquid White.  Watch and learn, kiddo. Watch. And. Learn.”

She was mesmerized. I can’t blame her.

The Space to Breathe

Some days are just like every other day. You wake. You go about your routine. You look at the clock and the time ticks by, sometimes quickly, sometimes painfully slowly, but the day carries on and before you know it you are brushing your teeth and preparing to climb in to bed and do it all again tomorrow.

Yesterday was an odd one. I did things I don’t normally do. Some of those things were very small but when I stepped back from the day and sized it up they all added up. And this morning, I feel different.

I sat down yesterday morning with a newspaper. I did not open my laptop and have coffee. I sat down with the paper. A real, live newspaper. I fear Chapel Hill News is suffering if they are delivering their paper for free to neighboring towns. I can’t count on this paper sticking around in printed form if they have resorted to giving it away but I will enjoy it while it lasts. A newspaper and a cup of coffee. That was unusual.

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Later in the morning I met a new friend and her son and we walked and talked. I was late. I am never late. I cancel if I am going to be late. I was late. That is unlike me. And I did not take a single picture. I did not check my phone. Also not typical behavior. We walked and talked.

She mentioned the paralyzing freedom of having every day be so full of options. I’d not considered that fully before. The lack of structure that can be present in the life of the mother who chooses to stay at home – it can have an almost crippling presence. “But you can do whatever you want,” a friend might note. Not really. Somedays I do not do a damn thing that is “what I want.” And yet daily I am overcome with gratitude. I am all at once living the life that I have chosen, that I am deeply grateful for, and not actually very free at all some days.

Later in the evening I did another thing I rarely do.

I stopped and had two beers at a local bar in town. “Have a seat,” said a gentleman as he slid over and offered me a bar stool. It had been so long I almost said “Oh, no, no.” I couldn’t possibly sit down. I didn’t have that kind of time. I would just stand, drink a beer, and hightail it home before Lucy woke up or MQD called or … or what? I turned in to a pumpkin?

I slid in to a barstool and I felt my shoulders get lower. I felt my back get longer. I was relaxed, in my element. It had been too long. A man introduced himself, “I am Jerry, by the way.”

I smiled. “The ByTheWays, I know a lot of your people, a friendly bunch you are. I meet a ByTheWay almost everywhere I go.” He paused. And then he smiled. I apologized for my flip remark. “I spent a decade behind the bar and I have a canned response to everything, I am sorry. I haven’t been out in so damn long that that is all that’s coming to me now. Forgive me?”

We chatted about kids and our quaint little downtown. The fellow to my left interrupted me, eventually. “What are you now? Just a housewife?” I felt myself stand up straighter. “Yep. And it is fucking awesome.” I could see that he was disappointed. I think he’d been trying to rile me up and I didn’t bite. I threw him a bone. “You? What are you? Just an asshole? A prick? What name do you prefer?” He seemed pleased with himself, he’d gotten under my skin.

I smiled again and let him down easy. “I’m sorry… but you have got to be kidding me. “Just a housewife?” Come on, man, it is the 21st century. Cut the little woman some slack.” I turned to Mr. ByTheWay and said “It was really nice to meet you.” I turned back to my right and said “And you, watch your mouth,” flashing him a million dollar smile.

20130411-122721.jpgI joined my girlfriends outside and laughed some more. We talked about our kids. It was easy. It was awkward for me to realize that I actually enjoyed sitting at a table with a bunch of women having easy conversation just as much if not more than the jocular and sometimes acidic back and forth of strangers at a bar. While outside a friend mentioned a tattoo I’ve had for years. A devil-woman, nursing her baby. I got it ages ago to symbolize the union between the hell-raiser I had been and the mother I was becoming. A timely reminder that I do not have to choose. The comfort I feel at a table of women does not negate the entertainment of a seat at the bar.

It is good to do the things that we do not usually do. Read the newspaper. Turn your phone off. Go ahead and be late. Stop for a beer.

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This morning I went outside to water the flowers and said “C’mon, Goose, we need to hurry up.” Hurry. Towards what? The next task? I stopped. I poured some water on her feet and she laughed. I took a picture of the snapdragons quickly and then I put my phone inside. We sat on the deck. I don’t know for how long.

If I am quiet in the coming weeks, do not be worried. I am going back to school.  I have enrolled in a self-taught, self-guided and intensive course on the Art of Relaxing. Wish me luck.

 

It’s not a Dirty Secret.

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It was an innocent question. “Do you post about it?”

“Eh, not really. I can’t become one of those facebooking stay at home moms that posts about the gym constantly.”

He went on to explain that he thinks it is motivating to people to see people taking care of themselves. He’s right. Intellectually, I know that he is right. And he knows where of he speaks. My friend Tony lost a gazillion pounds in the last few years going to Yoga. He looks just like the handsome devil he was at 20. He is so damn inspiring he was on Good Morning, America. The guy knows what inspiring looks like.

“I agree. I just think that my stay at home mom-ness makes some people have the “Of course she works out – what else is she doing?” reaction, yanno?”

It was the first time I had admitted that there is a certain level of shame that goes along with striving to be fit when I don’t have a “real job.” Somehow making time for myself when I worked 50+ hours a week was more admirable to me.

I let this all roll around in my head for a few days. And then I decided, fuck it. I work about 22 hours a day. That is 154 hours a week. And I find the time. Six days a week I say to someone, even if it just Lucy “Nope, I can’t do that. I am going to the gym.” And I go. Sometimes the only thing that drags me there is the knowledge that I can take a shower. Sometimes I go so that I can get out of my own head for a few minutes. Sometimes I go because I am so damn close to the Wedding Weight (the number on the scale when we got married, at the peak of the Wedding Diet. It shouldn’t matter. I know this. But man, alive, it feels good. My body doesn’t resemble the Wedding Day body. My boobs are still cartoonishly large due to nursing. My stomach is still weirdly stretchy. But the scale, the dreaded scale, is resembling a me that said “Hot damn, take my picture all day and make me your wife!”)

But more often than not I go because I am obsessed. Not with being fit in a general sense. Or dieting. Or zipping up my skinny jeans. Or how I will look in a bathing suit this summer. But because I have a new hobby.

Sprint Triathlons. On April 28th I will be one week shy of 37-years-old and I will be competing in my very first sprint triathlon. Swim 250 yards. Bike ten miles. Run two miles. And I can not wait. I am over the moon excited. I lie in bed and I wonder if I can get my socks on faster if I roll them up kinda like a donut. I go back and forth between putting on a baseball hat under my bike helmet or not. As absurd as the tri-suit bathing suits are they must have a purpose and I scour the Internet for one that is universally flattering and only marginally overpriced.

I am coming out of hiding! I am proudly telling you and the whole damn world that I am “one of those women.” I am one of those women that is showing her kids that it is important to take time to care for yourself. It is important to work for things that you believe in. It is okay to take pride in feeling strong. And it is even okay to be one of those women that hangs around in the lobby drinking a cup of coffee after Spin class like “she doesn’t have anything better to do.” Because my bathrooms will get cleaned. My groceries will get purchased. My laundry will get put away and some more board books will be read. And I just might do it all with a smile on my face because I had a ten minute conversation with an adult that was not about poop or Hello Kitty.

Ladies at the gym in your fancy workout clothes – I am sorry my 26 year old self sneered at you. I did not undertand why you had on a matchy matchy gym ensemble instead of a decade old fraternity t-shirt. I didn’t understand that gym clothes might be the only “getting dressed” you did all day and that it was important to feel put together. I am sorry that I thought it was lame that you were not in any kind of hurry to leave the gym. I am sorry that I thought taking your time meant you didn’t have anything “better to do.” I don’t really have an excuse. I was still lighting a cigarette as soon as I pulled out of the gym parking lot. Can we just agree that there were a lot of things I did not have figured out and forgive me?

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So, now that I spilled the beans you can expect to hear more.  Because when I get in to something I get really in to it.  I’ll be racing for a cause, Best for Babes.  You can expect to hear a lot more about that. No more time to gab.  I have a hot date with a treadmill.

How to Spot a Mom

I was naked when she asked me the question.  Maybe that was why it hurt my feelings.  “You have kids?” She was smiling, maybe in her late 70s.  There was no reason for me to find the question off putting, I suppose.  It was casual chit-chat.

In the locker room at the gym there are lots of different kinds of women.  I am envious of the older women that stroll nonchalantly from the shower to their locker.  They are free,  maybe even confident,  certainly at peace with the body they live in.  There are the younger women and the quiet gals that change in the “dressing rooms,” the awkward spaces with shower curtains that don’t quite close all the way.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I have given birth twice.  I came of age in a theatrical dressing room. I can surely get my bathing suit off in a locker room without demonstrating something just short of a magic trick to get my bra and underwear on before my towel drops to the floor.

But I am not yet free.  I am not yet at peace with this body.  It still feels new.  I am not embarrassed, not really.  “You have kids?” she asked me.  Why?  Is it my stretch marks?  I thought they were fading, maybe there are some I don’t even know I have.  Maybe it’s my stomach.  But then I never really had much in the way of a flat stomach before I even had kids.

It took me by surprise, my reaction to such a simple question.  Immediately, I wondered if my body was telling a story that I could not even see.  Fresh from a long swim I was feeling long and lean and that three word question brought me  to a place where I begin to wonder if I need to just settle in to a new normal and accept that this body ain’t all that bad.

I smiled and said “I do.  Girls.  One and seven.  Lucky mama gets to shower today in peace.”  She smiled warmly, turning back to her locker, unaware the spiral her innocent question had started.

I pulled my jeans on and ran a brush through my too short hair.  I took a deep breath and put a smile on my face, knowing I was going to walk by a long mirror on my way out the door.  I would smile at the woman in the mirror, maybe take it easy on her.

And smile I did when I saw her.  Yes. This woman has kids.  This woman with the Cinderella towel. She keeps her goggles and her shampoo in a hot pink  Yo Gabba Gabba tote bag.  Perhaps it wasn’t my stretch marks that gave me away after all.

~

Day  95 of This Book Will Change Your Life has me on the look out for aliens.  It gives a helpful list of how to spot the extraterrestrials among us.  I wish it would tell me how to spot the moms at the gym.  Evidently Disney towels and Nickelodeon tote bags aren’t enough to make it obvious for me.

 

In my underwear, in the parking lot, 1993.  High school was weird.  I was not always uncomfortable in my underwear.

In my underwear, in the parking lot, May 8, 1993. I had turned 17 the day before. I was not always uncomfortable in my underwear.

 

Hermit Crab Love

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Sleeping in her chick and bunny pajamas my little girl looks so vulnerable.  Babies, by design, are fairly dependent little creatures.  But when they are asleep I think they look like hermit crabs without their shells.  Any moment she will rise up on to her knees and crawl in to a painted shell.  She will cling to the side of a cage in the hopes that a 9-year-old girl on vacation will pick her to take home.

I watch my hermit crab baby sleeping and I think about how lucky I am. I watch my big girl ride down the street on her bicycle and I think about how quickly the time goes by.   Almost 18 years ago I met a boy in a bar and then it turned out he was the cook at the restaurant where I got my first job as a bartender.  Ten years after that my wondrous Emily June came in to my life.  I moved to Chapel Hill and got reacquainted with some old friends who happened to meet a boy at a dog park.  A year after that I needed a smile and they sent me out to dinner with that boy from the dog park.  He became the man that would be by my side forever.  I dreamt of the little boy that would join our family.  And that little boy was Lucy Quinn. (!)

The world is so huge.  Today’s challenge reminds us that there is 1 chance in 89 billion that life would have involved into mankind. There is 1 chance in 6 billion that your parents would have met. The book reminds us that we are all lucky to be here and suggests we show “cosmic humility.”

I am surrounded by reminders of cosmic humility.  My three biggest reminders are walking, breathing, loving examples of luck.  I want to believe that my children chose me.  I want to believe that MQD is my soul mate.  But in my heart of hearts I know that it was chance.  In this great big, huge world these three are mine.  They flesh out the living, breathing organism that is my house, my family, me.

Today I am in awe.  Cosmic humility doesn’t even start to sum it up.